Sunday, August 8, 2010

Thoughts this National Day

Our nation’s birthday is upon us, for the 45th time, since independence. A country of driven people will come together to celebrate and heap praise upon achievements past. National leaders have delivered the National Day Message, in different languages, from the icon of public housing, The Pinnacle. The Marina Bay Sands has been fully erected against a backdrop of a fast evolving but still familiar skyline. The economy has made a significant recovery in 1Q and 2Q on-year; but warnings have been given that we should not presume this to be the prevailing trend, and the global economic outlook is still fraught with risk and great uncertainty. Productivity is still not where it should be. In the height of economic recovery and prosperity, Singaporeans still have not experienced a sustained economic depression. Many will remember that 4Q 2008 was terrifying. We saw job losses, negative growth, and with some companies, closure. By 4Q 2009, there was already vast improvement. Overall, there is much to be thankful for 2010. There has been no other National Day which has preceded a global sporting event of Olympic proportions and Formula One, together with numerous other conferences and international gatherings. The country’s youth are excited and energized.

Yet social concerns remain – cohesion, religious tolerance, and the mutual respect for the common spaces that are to be used for interaction and exchange between different communities and religious groups. And what of the concerns of Singaporeans over foreign workers and new immigrants? Will it change the ethos of our society? Certainly. Will it mean more competition for us at work or for our children at schools? Absolutely. Will new arrivals strike roots here? They already have and will continue to do so. Can they adjust to us and we to them? For some, it remains to be seen. Some are certainly trying to integrate and we should reciprocate. But really, the gripe is principally one to do with competition and the fear that we lose jobs to foreigners. I dare say that the same concerns and fears over adjustment and competition should also resonate with foreign workers and immigrants.

Gripe no more and we should stop asking for assurances. Let’s test ourselves against the new entrants. Where appropriate, view them as benchmarks and mountain peaks to surpass in terms of performance. Where we do not measure up, we learn, like we always have, and improve our best practices. Let’s show what them what we can do, and do even better. That is the strife for excellence.

Happy Birthday, Singapore!

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